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New York City FC hires academy director with West Ham United roots

DAGENHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 13: Liam Manning of West Ham United comes out prior to the pre season frindly between Dagenham and Redbridge and West Ham United U23 at Chigwell Construction Stadium on July 13, 2018 in Dagenham, England. (Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images)

NEW YORK — In England, clubs in the English Premier League sought his services. Ultimately, Liam Manning chose Major League Soccer and New York City FC.

City announced Manning as the new director of coaching at the NYCFC Academy after four years in a similar position at West Ham United.

“There were a lot of other clubs trying to get him before we hired him,” West Ham Academy Manager Terry Wesley said after the Monday announcement. “He is very diligent, hard working and open minded – and popular with the players and the staff.

“He wants to work with all ages, which is nice to see. He gives the 13s the same amount of focus and concentration as the 21s.”

Manning, who was the assistant academy manager at West Ham since 2015, offers New York City a perspective unique to the development landscape.

“I think I’ve been fortunate to have been in full-time positions across the whole spectrum,” said Manning, who has guided players in three age groups: 7-12; 12-16; and 17-23. “How you design a session, challenge a player or communicate to a player within a session varies massively from a 12-year old compared to 19.”

And now he will share those methods with NYCFC Academy players, coinciding with England’s pivotal Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – a response by the EPL and Football Association to the limited number of players breaking into the top tier of English football.

“There was a concern where youth development was heading,” Manning said. “Now, there is an increasing level of accountability. Each club is audited.”

As part of the stricter criteria, EPL clubs were required to look at staffing structures, put a formal coaching syllabus in place, provide methods for reviewing a player’s performance and offer proper facilities.

“The Premier League and FA just looked at every area they felt was important in developing a player,” said Manning, whose program at West Ham was audited four times. “You are now starting to see some of the benefits of that.”

The England U17 and U20 age groups are the current World Cup holders, and Manning has tutored several players from those two sides, including Reece Oxford, the Academy Player of the Year in 2015 after signing a professional contract at the age of 16.

“Reece was in the group I was working with at West Ham,” Manning said. “The EPPP really benefited players like him with a real focus on learning and the individual. Instead of a generic program where you are just delivering sessions to a team, now individuals review their matches and their training sessions. There are formal reviews based on them as an individual every six weeks.”

These are the some of the devices he will share the Academy players at New York City FC – where Manning was impressed by a particular aspect of that program.

“I’ve got to say that the first thing that hit me about the place was the people and the environment at the training ground,” Manning said. “That had a big impact.”

Manning thinks the constructive and supportive surroundings will lend to a seamless spread of his own philosophies.

“It is important to have a staff that knows how to develop effective relationships with each player,” Manning said. “That’s the best way to get your message across – being able to connect with an individual to stimulate them and challenge them each day.”

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